Featured Image by: Steve Benjamin.
On 23 April 2023 the Two Oceans Aquarium, in support of the #NOOW African Penguin Campaign, invites everyone to join a Penguin Waddle to show love and care for the well-being of South Africa’s marine environment and its special inhabitants, the African penguin.
The Two Oceans Aquarium penguin mascot Samantha will lead the Waddle, starting at Muizenberg beach at 08h30. They will make their way towards the Boulders Beach African penguin colony in Simon’s Town, with the hope of getting the attention of passers-by. The Aquarium asks all those attending to show their support by wearing black and white clothing and to bring signs reflecting the #NOOW hashtag and slogans.
Do your bit to highlight the need for urgent protection of the African penguin from extinction in this event leading up to World Penguin Day.
Date: 23 April 2023
Time: 08h30 to 13h30
Location: Surfer’s Corner, Muizenberg to Boulders, Simon’s Town
There are prizes up for grabs: Five pairs of entry tickets to Boulders Beach courtesy of SANParks. Winners will be randomly selected from a lucky draw at the end of the waddle.
Come prepared: wear comfortable walking shoes, bring water (in reusable water bottles) and some snacks for fuel in reusable bags. Please no plastic. Get creative and make your own signs creating awareness of the plight of the African penguin, or make use of the various infographics that can be found on the #NOOW Campaign website https://www.africanpenguinnotonourwatch.org/
African penguins on the brink of extinction
The aim of the Waddle is to raise awareness around the plight of African penguins and their rapid decline in numbers. African penguins are the only penguin species found on the African continent. In the last century, their numbers have declined dramatically, and current estimates suggest that there are a mere ~10 000 breeding pairs in the wild today. Scientists estimate that if their numbers continue to decline at the current rate, these charismatic and endemic birds will be functionally extinct in the wild within 15 to 20 years.
One of the biggest threats facing these birds is food availability. Being reliant on small fish like anchovies and sardines for food, African penguins are finding it more difficult to find sufficient food for themselves and their chicks. The low fish stocks are due to overfishing as well as changes in the marine ecosystem due to climate change, and biodiversity loss. Adult penguins have to swim further and further away from their nesting grounds to find food, which not only compromises the chicks on the nests, but also the adult birds themselves.
African penguins nest by burrowing into the substrate. On islands where these penguins have their nests, guano layers formed over hundreds of years are the basis of the substrate. Historically, penguin guano was used as fertiliser and was collected from these islands. Stripping these nesting areas from the nesting material. This has resulted in the birds being to be exposed to extreme weather events and other climate change-related phenomena like severe heat and cold.
Predation by marine and terrestrial animals including domestic pets, pollution, habitat loss, disease and other human interventions are also contributing to the continued decline in penguin numbers.
The #NOOW African penguin Campaign
On 1 March 2023, the Not-On-Our-Watch #NOOW Campaign was launched to raise awareness of the urgent plight of the African penguin. The campaign is supported by a number of conservation organisations including WWF-SA, Endangered Wildlife Trust, SAAMBR, SANCCOB, Birdlife South Africa, African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Animal Ocean, and Nelson Mandela University. Funding for the campaign was received from the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, the Florida Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium in the US, and Zoos Victoria in Australia.
“Our goal is to create a movement and raise awareness about the need for urgent action to reverse the decline of the African penguin population in the wild. Through this campaign we will call for support to ensure that wise decisions concerning the future of the African penguin are made by the relevant authorities. We will create a movement to build pride in African penguins as a part of South Africa’s unique biodiversity and we will assist penguin colony managers by ensuring that visitors to the colonies behave in ways that support penguin wellbeing” said Dr Judy Mann, Head of Strategic Projects at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.
“While many people and organisations are dedicated to the survival of the African penguin and their incredible commitment and hard work must be commended, saving a species needs action on the ground, the support of people and actionable legislation. To date there has not been a public action campaign for the African penguin. This is where #NOOW comes in” she said.
If you would like to join in the Waddle or come along to report on the event, please get in touch with Heather Wares, Communications Manager at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
images by: Steve Benjamin.